For those of you in the Triangle area, I’m sure you’re familiar with NC State’s D.H. Hill library. Erected in the mid-1950’s, D.H Hill was the epicenter of Main Campus and the main library until the completion of Hunt almost 60 years later.
Sometime during the 1960’s, in the midst of the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights Movement, campus decorators presumably decided to cheer up the drab library with mod furniture. Thus, the Ball Chair, designed by Eero Aarnio, became part of the studious scenery.
My favorite local vintage curators, Raleigh Vintage, managed to score one of these during an auction of D. H. Hill paraphernalia a few months back, so naturally we decided to do a photo-shoot! When Andi approached me with the idea, I immediately began thinking about what that chair had been through – like a “if walls could talk” with furniture. I was inspired not only by fashion of the decade (late 60’s/early 70’s), but also how that period mirrors today’s political and cultural climate.
Think about it; during the 1960’s we had a sketch president (Nixon), were in the middle of a war no one wanted to be in (Vietnam), were fighting for equality between races and sexes, and breaking gender roles of the 40’s and 50’s. Sounds familiar, right? So it was quite appropriate to feature a fierce female as the star of the show, being an intellectual and a fashionista, reflecting the similarities of today and yesteryear.
(Too cute size 7.5 floral flats available online!)
This Ball Chair has seen numerous students, male and female/black and white, sit in its seat to study. This was the era when women began to recognize their value outside of the household. A time when the African-American community began to establish themselves as a group of educated people with more to give than working manual labor jobs.
Here we have Mara with Simone de Beauvoir’s A Very Easy Death. De Beauvoir was a well known intellectual and feminist writer of the early 19th century. I have to assume that some young ladies attending NC State and studying at D.H. Hill were doing so to make their own lives, their own living, and to become their own person (not an extension of their husband).
This was probably one of my favorite ensembles from the shoot: playful turquoise shorts, a super 70’s ruffle-front blouse and colorful crochet vest. Be on the lookout ladies; sweater vests are back! Gucci and Prada’s Spring collections are a nod to 1970’s workwear, along with J. Crew and their affinity for frills.
Color is a personal statement, especially in the 1970’s. Current mainstream fashion is too consumed by neutrals and trying to look “understated,” while the 70’s were a time of technicolor: crazy prints and a full spectrum of hues. It’s not just the political atmosphere that feels familiar, but the stylistic choices made by leading designers is a nod to colors and silhouettes popular during the late 60’s/early 70’s (btw, fashion trends do not simply span a decade, but rather cross over between the early parts of one and the later of another). Balenciaga, Miu Miu, and Missoni are just a few of the big names bringing back the vibrant mod aesthetic. (Psst, this Lanvin shirtdress is still available!)
Too often, today and in the past, females have been the object of the male gaze (see Cindy Sherman). I decided to switch up the roles for this shoot and have the girl go for the guy: because, why not? Why should women play the damsel in destress when we can take care of ourselves? Having a man on your arm is not a need, it’s a luxury. An easily missed detail in this shot is Aziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance. A highly recommended read that discusses the nuanced differences between dating in the 21st century and how our grandparents got together. A most fascinating chapter talks about how 50+ years ago, people married to get out of their parent’s house, whereas now we have the freedom to become our own person and therefore seek a partner to grow with (not just a body to keep us warm at night).
I went a little off script with this look. The sweater is from the 50’s and the skirt is totally 80’s, but opposites attract! Mixing decades is one of my favorite things because, just like politics, fashion is cyclical.
I cannot take full credit for this outfit: Andi is a genius, creating contrast between the vibrant red of the chair and a gray-scale mod ensemble. The coolest thing about this look is that the boots double as pants! Yes, you heard me right. These boots/leggings are the cure to your lazy Mondays. They were also knocked off by Balenciaga for their Spring 2017 collection.
If you want to continue your 1960’s binge, I suggest you watch Good Girls Revolt (Amazon Prime exclusive): a feminist response to Mad Men. It’s a sartorial dream that will inspire your wardrobe and motivate you to stand up for what you believe in. Take no shit: challenge the rules and demand respect wherever you go.
Huge thanks to photographer Rodney Boles, models Mara and Ryan, hair by Keisha, makeup by Amity, and wardrobe provided by Raleigh Vintage. Concept and styling by yours truly.